The Modernization of All Russian T-80 Tanks: “Why Do We Need This Junk?”

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


The news that Russia will modernize all of its 3,000 T-80 tanks is not new, but the swirling in the heads about this issue continues.

The questions of how and why are quite appropriate here, though are somewhat surprising. While questions like “why waste resources on this junk?” and “is it worth it?”  force a number of remarks to be made.

I will not bore the reader with technical details, but I can’t not start with a short historical perspective.

The T-80 entered into service in 1976, and those main modifications developed over the following ten years are now in service.

The German Leopard 2 entered into service in 1979, although the first test took place in 1969.

American Abrams entered in service from 1980, although its testing in general ended in 1976.

Meanwhile, nobody asks if there is any reason to produce the modification Leopard 2A7+, and whether there is a need of a “third package of improved systems” for Abrams, because it is clear that it is necessary.

And what do you suggest we do with our armored armadas? To leave them rusting away in storage? Or to sell them under the counter, like the Ukrainians did?

The T-80 is a good and unusual tank for its time. Its gas turbine engine provides remarkable manoeuvrability (the specific capacity of 25 horsepower per ton) and high speed (70 km/h on the highway and 60 km/h on rough terrain), it does not overheat during a hot march and starts in three minutes at minus 40 degrees. It’s true that it “eats” fuel mercilessly, however, but if it is necessary it can use any fuel: whether petroleum from public stations or diesel fuel from a truck. Removing the engine takes 5 hours, vs the 24 hours for the T-72. The armour is made from composite materials. Soft suspension (before the appearance of Armata it was said to be the “best”) provides the efficiency of fire whilst on the move.

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In the process of modernisation, having adding to this complex a modern imaging sighting device “Sosna”, means of communications, monitoring, new dynamic protection, and providing a complex of measures on its overhaul – we will receive a tank that will not concede much to the T-90, the last modifications of which, at a minimum, are not inferior to any modern tank.

The modernization of the T-80 is not a spirit of the time or a reaction to a confrontation with someone. We have modernised since 2013 the T-72 to T-72B3, bringing some of the parameters to the level of the T-90. Now it’s the T-80’s turn.

Taking into account the tolerability to temperature behavior and speed of movement, this tank can find its place in the Arctic region.

We now have in our units 350 T-90, 1000 T-72BЗ (and its number continues to increase), we ordered 2500 T-14, and now there is the modernization of 3000 T-80. It will be the largest grouping of modern tanks in the world (not counting the 200 T-90, 7000 T-72, 2000 T-64, 2500 T-62, and 2800 T-55 in storage).

What do we need so much for?

The fact is that we can allow ourselves to not have the most powerful Navy in the world, we can allow ourselves some superiority over a possible enemy in aircraft, but tanks, like it or not, are the armored “knights” of modern ground war.

And the fortress of the “heart of Eurasia” must have plenty of knight in its army.


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